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Jeffersons Ghost

(15,235 posts)
1. Deliberate Genocide against Native Americans
Thu Nov 22, 2018, 01:12 PM
Nov 2018

During Pontiac Uprising in 1763, Native Americans besieged Fort Pitt. They burned nearby houses, forcing the inhabitants to take refuge in the well-protected fort. The British officer in charge, Captain Simeon Ecuyer, reported to Colonel Henry Bouquet that he feared the crowded conditions would result in disease. Smallpox had already broken out.

On June 24, 1763, William Trent, a local trader, recorded in his journal that two Indian chiefs had visited the fort, urging the British to abandon the fight, but the British refused. Instead, when the Indians were ready to leave, Trent wrote: "Out of our regard for them, we gave them two Blankets and an Handkerchief out of the Small Pox Hospital. I hope it will have the desired effect."

Plains Indians kept track of the passing years by winter counts, pictures painted in spirals, often on the smooth inner hide of buffalo robes. Each tribe recorded its own version of what was important. But one event on virtually all Plains Indian winter counts was the “smallpox winter.” The smallpox epidemic of 1837–38 all but destroyed the Mandans and severely reduced the Arikaras and Hidatsas, who also lived in fortified villages along the Missouri River and farmed corn, beans and squash, with buffalo hunting as a sideline. The epidemic tipped the balance in favor of the buffalo-hunting tribes who didn’t farm and whose isolated bands weren’t as hard hit by the smallpox epidemic, in turn altering the world’s image of what an “Indian” looked like.

The epidemic of 1837–38 also spawned a narrative of deliberate white genocide against the original Americans: “smallpox in the blankets”—white Europeans and white Americans deliberately promoting the spread of smallpox among unsuspecting American Indians to clear them off the land.

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